Anger is a common emotion we all feel from time to time, and is healthy.
I think it is important to clear the air right from the beginning, because having confusion regarding a common emotion can easily lead to self-judgement and self-actualizing prophecies way more damaging than anger itself.
Whether anger is triggered by a partner leaving the bathroom in a complete mess again, by the traffic that makes you late or somebody lacking respect towards you at wok or in your intimate, it remains an emotion you need to express at that time. And that is fine. Anger is an emotion our brain, over millennia of development and neurological refinement, uses to provoke a status of general activation leading to an action, generally in response to something perceived as bringing dissatisfaction or worse. In other terms, anger allows us to do something and change the status quo.
Put this way, anger sounds much better, doesn’t it?
Anger can become a real problem when it comes to express it. If having emotions is natural, expressing them is the rocky part. In a following article, I will be speaking about the difference between Anger and Rage, deeply important in terms of therapeutic strategies and management. By now, what is relevant to the aim of this article is to bear in mind that Anger can mutate in overwhelming Rage, and this is where an issue can become an unhealthy problem.
It is possible to distinguish two different ways people use to express anger: Internalizing it and Externalizing it.. Another way to say it is Anger-out or Anger-in people.
The people who adopt the first strategy tend to suppress their anger and bury it inside them to the point that they do not recognize it anymore, and it may lead to withdrawal and depression. It is very common for Anger-in people to be scared of their own anger, usually perceived as dangerous and inappropriate, and they are usually deeply ashamed of it. If Anger switches to overwhelming Rage, mostly because of the social isolation it leads to, one of the unfortunate versions can lead to self-harm and even suicide ideation or worse. The reasons why people internalise anger to this point are thousands, from gender-appropriateness to family patterns, but they are certainly treatable. Communication is one of the focal points in these cases.
On the other side of the river, there are those people who externalize it, the Anger-out group, who find very difficult to keep this emotion inside. The way accessing their anger is so easily embarked that there can be a confusion and, as for the Anger-in group, a lack of recognition, that can easily lead to use anger as standard response to any stimuli presented. Anger can quickly become totalising. People experiencing this way to express anger can find themselves isolated because the people around are afraid of outbursts, or because of the shame following embarrassing arguments. If Anger turns in Rage, they may become aggressive, verbally or physically, either against people or against objects, feeling absolutely out of control and preys. This can seriously endanger either the person or the people around. Again, acknowledgement and communication of the issue can ease the path towards the management.
Whether if you are an Anger-in or Anger-out person, you may find very difficult to soothe yourself and having to deal with an awful lot of shame.
If you feel like exploding many times during the week, or with some specific people or within certain relationships, you might want to consider those general pieces of advice:
- Walking away from the situation: this is one of the most common and useful strategies when a situation is triggering you. If the reason behind your anger is a person, tell him or her that you are going off for a couple of minutes and will come back once calmed. Regardless if this person is your partner, a colleague, a friend or a family member, this strategy tends to work quite well.
- Thinking through: you might want to adopt this strategy when you still feel angry, but slightly calmer and in control. Thinking and walking, in other terms redirecting your energies, will help you to analyse what is happening to you and have a better understanding of it. Even better if you manage to do it with a person you trust.
- Communicate: whether if you are feeling your anger bubbling up or you are in the heat of the moment, remember to communicate what is going on for you from the “I” perspective. Anger, and especially Rage, tends to lead us to blame others for the anger we are feeling. That can easily be true, somebody can actually make us angry, but it is fundamental to learn how to express what we are feeling right now. It will ease the path towards calm.
Those are only few tips you may want to try out when the anger is in the mounting phase. If you feel that you anger tends to be overwhelming quickly, you feel angry all the time or your anger has much deeper roots you need and are willing to explore in a confidential and non-judgmental environment, you may want to seek help for it. Psychotherapy or Counselling can be what you are looking for, in the form of anger management therapy. Together, we will look at the triggers, the reason why anger is the strategy you adopt and work on some strategies enabling you to restore the calm in your mind and body.